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Hunt, Jacob Geoffrey (1912–1941)

by Peter Burness

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 14, (MUP), 1996

Jacob Geoffrey Hunt (1912-1941), grazier and soldier, was born on 15 April 1912 at Inverell, New South Wales, second child of native-born parents Alexander Hunt, grazier, and his wife Alice Ada Clinton, née Woods. Educated at Bannockburn Public and Inverell Intermediate High schools, Geoff grew up and worked on the family property, Oakwood.

A good horseman and athlete, in January 1939 he joined the local Militia infantry unit, the 33rd Battalion. When World War II began he was determined to enlist in the Australian Imperial Force, but was rejected because he was too short. By March 1940 he was a sergeant in the 35th Battalion, Militia. Hunt finally managed to enlist in the A.I.F. on 14 May; he gave his religion as Anglican; his recorded height of 5 ft 5 ins (165 cm) may have been exaggerated. Posted to the 2nd/13th Battalion and promoted corporal, he sailed with his unit in October for Palestine where further training was undertaken. In February 1941 the 2nd/13th was incorporated in the 9th Division and deployed to North Africa. The battalion was stationed at Beda Fomm, Libya, before withdrawing eastwards and reaching Tobruk by 9 April.

During the siege of the fortress Hunt was a member of the battalion's Pioneer Platoon. He regularly worked alone—or with a small party—out in front of the perimeter posts, laying and repairing the wire, and locating and removing mines and booby traps. Patrolling at night, he made the area his own, becoming familiar with the ground and all the approaches. When the battalion advanced its line on the left of the Salient in May, he went out under machine-gun fire to wire the new position. On other nights he led parties carrying stores to the forward posts. He was known as the battalion's scout and was described as 'outstanding for his energy and courage and resourcefulness'.

The 2nd/13th occupied the right sector of the Salient in June and made preparations to advance the line. Hunt took out squads on two successive nights to clear the vicinity of booby traps. Persistent mortar fire killed or wounded several of his men. Displaying 'exceptional coolness and ability', he extricated the wounded, then returned to continue his task. He was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal (gazetted 1942) for this action and for his work over months of the siege. A soldier in his platoon recalled that he had 'a wonderful control over men and we would happily do anything for him. He was energetic like a game fox terrier and quite fearless of any higher ranks, including our tough CO, ''Bull" Burrows'. In July Hunt was promoted lance sergeant.

On 29 November 1941 the battalion moved to Ed Duda in readiness for an attack towards Sidi Rezegh. At dawn the Germans brought down heavy artillery fire on the exposed Australians, causing many casualties. Hunt was one of those hit by shrapnel. He died on the following day and was buried in the Tobruk war cemetery.

Select Bibliography

  • G. H. Fearnside (ed), Bayonets Abroad (Syd, 1953)
  • B. Maughan, Tobruk and El Alamein (Canb, 1966)
  • private information.

Citation details

Peter Burness, 'Hunt, Jacob Geoffrey (1912–1941)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1996, accessed online 27 November 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 14, (MUP), 1996

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